BANFF – The Town of Banff is looking to relocate the entrance sign to Banff along the Norquay Road to a downtown location for traffic and safety reasons.
Options for relocation for council to consider at its Sept. 8 meeting include Banff Avenue Square on the 200 block of Banff Avenue, Central Park or the Banff recreation grounds.
Darren Enns, the Town of Banff’s director of planning and development, said a range of relocation options for the Banff entrance sign have been explored that would allow visitors to safely access and interact with the sign in a pedestrian-friendly setting.
“Any exploration of a relocated sign would also include remediation plans for the existing site, and potential options for creating a sense of entry to the community without the traffic congestion associated with a sign,” he said in a report for council.
The Mt Norquay Road entrance feature sign, which was installed in 2017, has since proved to be a remarkably popular attraction with visitors stopping for photo opportunities upon arrival to the world famous tourist town.
Between 2017 and 2019, council authorized administration to implement a series of measures to help better manage the site, which sees visitors criss-crossing the busy road and randomly parking vehicles, creating dangerous conditions.
These included changes to the location, size and number of planters in the median and other signage and road marking changes to slow down traffic and improve pedestrian safety.
Enns said improvements to the pedestrian crossing were also made and adjusted in response to resident and visitor feedback and site observations.
“These improvements had the effect of improving pedestrian safety and slowing down vehicle movements,” he said.
In addition, Enns said that extensive video monitoring concluded that almost 90 per cent of the backups to the highway were caused by trains blocking the Norquay road.
“Whilst the improvements may result in train-related back-ups taking longer to clear out, they were not the cause of congestion in 90 per cent of incidents observed,” he said.
During the 2020 service review, council asked administration to work with Parks Canada on improvements to the west entrance from the highway including the possible relocation of the Banff entrance feature sign.
Administration believes that Banff Avenue Square in the heart of the downtown would be the best location for relocation of the Banff entrance sign.
The park concept, which is on the site of a former gas station which has since been remediated, was created by Parks Canada as an interim open space following the adoption of the 1998 Banff Community Plan.
The long-term plan at the time was to redevelop the site into an environmental education and interpretive centre, but this has never happened.
Enns said, since then overall use of Banff Avenue Square since the park was built in 2004 has been low in both winter and summer.
He said it is primarily made up of paving stones and concrete and would need a lot of work to turn it into a more naturally appealing setting, such as landscaping including grass.
“Given the high profile location, amount of available space and ease of pedestrian and barrier-free access, administration is of the opinion that the park would be the most suitable location for the relocation of the sign to help activate the space and provide an enhanced focal point for visitors and residents,” Enns said.
“If selected, administration would work in collaboration with Parks Canada to establish a concept plan for the relocation of the sign and renovation of the park.”